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General Zod as seen in Action Comics #845 (January 2007).
Art by Adam Kubert.
|First appearance||Adventure Comics #283
|Created by||Robert Bernstein
|Place of origin||Krypton|
|Team affiliations||Kryptonian Military Guild|
|Partnerships||Non, Ursa, Faora, Quex-Ul, Nam-Ek, Aethyr-Ka|
Skilled Warrior & Military Tactitian
General Zod (full name Dru-Zod) is a fictional character, a supervillain who appears in comic books published by DC Comics, and is one of Superman's more prominent enemies. The character, who first appeared in Adventure Comics #283 (April 1961), was created by Robert Bernstein and initially designed by George Papp. In the motion pictures Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Zod is portrayed by British actor Terence Stamp; the character is the principal villain in the latter film. Total Film ranked Stamp's version of Zod as #32 on their "Top 50 Greatest Villains Of All Time" list in 2007. Pop-culture website IGN.com ranked General Zod as #30 on their list of the "Top 100 Comic Book Villains", asserting that "Stamp is Zod" (emphasis in original). General Zod will be played by Michael Shannon as the main antagonist in Zach Snyder's 2013 film Man of Steel.
Dru-Zod is a megalomaniacal Kryptonian, in charge of the military forces on Krypton. He knew Jor-El, Superman's father, when Jor-El was an aspiring scientist. When the space program was abolished after the destruction of the inhabited moon Wegthor (engineered by renegade scientist Jax-Ur), he attempted to take over Krypton. Zod created an army of robotic duplicates of himself, all bearing a resemblance to Bizarro. He was sentenced to exile in the Phantom Zone for 40 years for his crimes. Zod was eventually released by Superboy when his term of imprisonment was up. However, he attempted to conquer Earth with his superpowers acquired under the yellow sun.
After DC's continuity altering crossover special Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), DC editorial held out for a number of years that no Kryptonians were to be depicted in comics aside from Superman, to reinforce his status as the last Kryptonian. This meant that characters like Supergirl and Power Girl were reimagined and Superman's Kryptonian canine Krypto became an ordinary house pet. However, writers of DC Comics still attempted to get around the no-Kryptonians rule by introducing "new" versions of Zod. Many of these were Zods of alternate universes. None persisted in DC continuity. After publishing its sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis (2005), DC reintroduced the real General Zod in its 2006-2008 storyline Superman: Last Son. For this it brought on board writer Richard Donner, director of Superman and Superman II, the films which introduced Zod to the moviegoing public.
The first Zod to be introduced following Crisis on Infinite Earths was the Zod of a Pocket Universe; this allowed for a "Kryptonian" Zod to be introduced while maintaining Superman's status as the last of his race in the universe proper. This Zod came from a Krypton in a pocket universe created by the Time Trapper. He (along with companions Quex-Ul and Zaora) devastated the Earth of that universe following the death of its Superboy, despite the best efforts of a Supergirl created by this world's heroic Lex Luthor. Eventually, the survivors of this world managed to contact the Superman of the main universe to help them, and he was able to take away the powers of the three super-criminals with Gold Kryptonite (since he was not from that universe, the Kryptonite of that reality would have no effect on him). However, as the three vowed to some day regain their powers and return to Superman's world to kill him, Superman was forced to execute them with Kryptonite, this action causing him to question his powers and how to deal with evildoers for some time afterwards until a meeting with the alien Cleric helped him accept that he had sinned in the cause of justice and his exile from Earth was doing more harm than good. This version of Zod is based closely on the Pre-Crisis version; the significant difference is he killed everyone on the pocket Earth, rather than conquering them (there is no Superboy/Superman to stop him).
A second incarnation of General Zod was introduced in the 2001 storyline "Return to Krypton"; this was the Zod of an alternate reality. He was the head of the Kryptonian military in an alternate reality created by Brainiac 13. Like the Pre-Crisis version, Zod held the Kryptonian equivalent of fascist beliefs. He sent aliens to the bottle city of Kandor and planned a military coup. Zod was defeated by Superman and the Jor-El of that Krypton.
The third attempt to bring Zod to Modern Age comics was the "Russian" Zod, a Zod of human origin whose origin story was connected to Superman's. This General Zod is a Russian who was affected before his birth by Kryptonite radiation, since he was the son of two cosmonauts whose ship was too close to Kal-El's rocketship. This Zod is unnaturally weak under a yellow sun, but superpowered under a red sun (the opposite of Superman). After his parents died from radiation, he grew up in a KGB laboratory under the name "Zed." Apparently spoken to by the spirit of the Pocket Universe Zod, Russian Zod created a suit of red armor which filtered the sunlight, and declared himself ruler of the fictional former Soviet state of Pokolistan. After several inconclusive encounters with Superman, he revealed his long-range plan to turn the sun red and take Superman's place. This was temporarily successful until Lex Luthor rescued Superman, gave him a blast of yellow solar radiation to regain his powers, and worked to restore the sun. Superman returned to battle Zod, but refused to kill him. When the sun turned yellow again the now-vulnerable Zod struck Superman with all his power at super-speed, but was killed due to Superman's invulnerability.
The final Zod before the character was finally reintroduced, the Zod of an alternate Phantom Zone appeared in the twelve-issue For Tomorrow (Superman #204-#215) storyline, written by Brian Azzarello and penciled by Jim Lee. This Zod lives alone in an alternate Phantom Zone and resents Superman for tampering with it. By his own account he comes from the same Krypton as Superman and was exiled to the Phantom Zone by Superman's father, Jor-El. This Zod wears large, spiked black armor and when unmasked, is a bald, white-bearded old man. This incarnation also uses a variation of "Kneel before Zod". He appeared in Metropia, a version of the Phantom Zone created by Superman to resemble a living world (including apparently-living beings). However, whether or not this was the real Zod of the pre-Infinite Crisis DC universe he has been superseded by the present storyline (which features a new Zod, freed from the Phantom Zone).
General Zod appeared as a primary antagonist in the Superman: Last Son storyline (written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, the director of Superman: The Movie and most of Superman II). In a similar story to that of Superman II, Zod, Ursa, and Non escape from the Phantom Zone and come to Earth to try to turn it into a "New Krypton". This incarnation is the first Post-Crisis Zod who came from Superman's Krypton, and not from an alternate reality.
The backstory for the three Kryptonians was revealed in Action Comics Annual #10. Prior to the destruction of Krypton, Zod and his wife Ursa rebelled against their planet's oppressive government, but soon became lawless would-be tyrants who lusted for power. The government sentenced the trio to death, but Superman's father Jor-El pleaded for to mitigate their sentence to imprisonment in the Phantom Zone, accepted on the condition that he would assume responsibility as their jailer. While in the Phantom Zone, Zod and Ursa were able to have a child who was born immune to the Phantom Zone's effects, ultimately facilitating their escape, and named him Lor-Zod. On Earth, the boy was discovered by Superman and his wife Lois Lane, who adopted him as their own son and named him Christopher Kent. For the duration of the "Last Son" storyline in Action Comics, Chris Kent is depicted as an adopted son of Superman and his wife Lois across DC titles. Alongside Zod, Ursa and Non, 25 other Kryptonian criminals also escape the Zone and defeat a number of Earth's heroes, beginning their quest to conquer the planet. Zod ambushes Superman in revenge for Jor-El's actions and traps him in the Phantom Zone, which he later escapes the help of the heroic Phantom Zone prisoner Mon-El. With assistance from his traditional enemies Lex Luthor, Metallo, Parasite and Bizarro, Superman takes on Zod's army. Out of nearly thirty Kryptonians, Superman's temporary allies successfully kill several, driving the rest back into the Phantom Zone alongside Zod and Ursa, who take Chris Kent with them.
In the later "New Krypton" arc storyline however, Zod is freed from the Phantom Zone once again by Supergirl's mother Alura. The 'bottled city of Kandor' is transformed into a populated Kryptonian planet ("New Krypton"), and Zod is appointed the leader of its army. In the "World of New Krypton" Action Comics storyline, when Superman decides to see what life is like on New Krypton, he is drafted into the Military Guild under General Zod. Zod and Superman maintain a mistrustful professional relationship. Despite their past, neither seems prepared to behave with marked aggression toward the other. Later, during a Kryptonian ceremony, Zod is shot by the Kryptonian Ral-Dar (who is working with Lois's father General Sam Lane, leading Zod to appoint Superman as temporary General until his recovery. The two are involved in a Kryptonian political plot, but ultimately apprehend the planet's traitor and see a reform of New Krypton's Council. Peace is short-lived however due to an attack by the alien Brainiac, who had been responsible for the bottling of Kandor in the first place. In "Last Stand of New Krypton", New Krypton comes under attack by Brainiac, and Zod engineers a plan to defeat him; Zod is driven by an urge to avenge his prior defeat at the hands of the Coluan Brainiac, when Kandor was bottled from Old Krypton. The storyline ends with the planet's destruction, leading Zod to declare war on Earth, sparking the "War of the Supermen" storyline. After a fierce conflict between Superman and Zod in defence of Earth, Zod is pushed back into the Phantom Zone by his son, Chris Kent, who had freed himself from the Phantom Zone and became active as an adult superhero on planet Earth.
DC relaunched its major titles and reset its continuity an additional time in 2011. General Zod is reintroduced through flashbacks in Action Comics (vol. 2) #5, where he is depicted as a prisoner in the Phantom Zone at the time of Krypton's destruction. Kryptonian scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara look for various ways to save themselves and their infant son Kal-El (Superman); they consider hiding in the Phantom Zone, which leads to Zod and his criminal allies' attempted escape, before he is driven back inside by their pet dog Krypto.
Like all Kryptonians under a yellow sun, General Zod possesses vast strength, speed, and endurance; super hearing; x-ray vision; telescopic, microscopic, and heat vision; super-breath and freeze-breath; invulnerability; healing and flight. In the movie Superman II he also displayed telekinetic powers, able to levitate a police officer's gun into his hand. Zod possesses a detailed knowledge of military tactics, giving him an advantage over Superman's somewhat amateurish combat prowess. Zod was trained in fighting arts before receiving his abilities, while Superman is prone to battling his foes with the aid of his own. Despite his tactical superiority in a confrontation with Superman, Zod's main weakness is shown to be his arrogance. Not only does he underestimate Superman's other allies, but he also lacks the ability to acknowledge his mistakes. When Zod originally escaped the Phantom Zone in the post-Crisis continuity, he proclaimed that he could have saved Krypton if his plan to kill the Council had succeeded; Superman's rational argument was that nobody on Krypton would have followed Zod, also drawing attention to Zod's inability to explain exactly what he would have done to avert Krypton's destruction, with Zod's only response being to reiterate his belief in his own success rather than provide any kind of counter to Superman's claims.
General Zod appears in Superman: The Movie as a minor antagonist and Superman II as the main antagonist and Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut portrayed by actor Terence Stamp as a pathologically arrogant and pompous aristocrat, almost bored with his incredible powers and disappointed with the ease of overtaking Earth. He is also portrayed as a super-powered psychopath, especially in the "Richard Donner Cut", which includes a scene where Zod is shown laughing while using an Armalite AR-10 to shoot soldiers in the White House, despite possessing superpowers. He is eventually defeated when Superman lures Zod and his allies to the Fortress after reprogramming a chamber designed to remove Kryptonian powers so that the red sunlight it generates will be reflected outward into the rest of the Fortress rather than into the chamber, allowing Superman to retain his powers while depriving Zod of his. In the Richard Donner cut, it was shown that Superman rotated the Earth backwards again to prevent General Zod and his followers from escaping from the Phantom Zone.
In 2009, issue #7 of the 15-story Superman: World of New Krypton copied this with the phrase "Kneel Before Kal-El" on the cover. Director Richard Lester inspired much of Zod (and company)'s destruction of downtown Metropolis. One scene involved his heat vision being reflected by Superman. Standing in front of a tanning-salon billboard, he comedically imprinted his silhouette over the bikini-clad figure; the rest of the poster charred. In a later scene Superman knocks him to the street and grabs him by his hand and foot; he spins Zod violently then throws him miles away where he crashes through a neon Coca Cola billboard. The film portrayal of General Zod is rated #58 on Wizard magazine's "100 Greatest Villains of All Time" list. Terence Stamp is the voice for Jor-El in the TV series Smallville, and his figure/shape and scream also appear also as Zod in the show (see below). Zod is notably the only other villain to appear in the film series originating from the comics beyond Lex Luthor.
General Zod, played by Michael Shannon, is the main antagonist in the Zack Snyder film Man of Steel. Official description of the character: "Once Krypton was destroyed, General Zod, a warrior born from generations of warriors before him, led a small band of surviving Kryptonians in search of a new home and in the process discovered a planet called Earth and a man once known as Kal-El."
In the Super Friends episode, "The Evil From Krypton" in 1981, a Phantom Zone villain named Zy-Kree resembles the movie-version of Zod.
General Zod appears in the 1988 animated series Superman episode "The Hunter" voiced by René Auberjonois. General Zod is imprisoned in the Phantom Zone with Ursa and Faora (two Kryptonian women) whereas most portrayals of the conspiracy show the Zod trio composed of two men and one woman. While in the Phantom Zone, General Zod and his followers create The Hunter (a creature which can transmute itself into any substance that it touches) and send it to Earth. After the Hunter's fight with Superman, General Zod introduces it to Kryptonite where the Hunter ends up seeking a piece of Kryptonite that is in the possession of Lex Luthor. During the fight with the Hunter, Superman plays dead by going into a suspended animation thanks to a device he gave to Lois Lane. After being awoken from his suspended animation, Superman destroys the Hunter and uses the Phantom Zone Projector to ensure that General Zod stays in the Phantom Zone.
Though neither Zod nor Jax-Ur appear in Justice League or Justice League Unlimited, the Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything" contains a depiction Superman's dream world where his Kryptonian wife, Loana, mentions another Kryptonian named "Little Zod".
Zod appears as a recurring villain in Smallville.
During season five, references to the character began in season premiere "Arrival" where Zod's two Kryptonian disciples Aethyr (Alana De La Garza) and Nam-Ek (Leonard Roberts) search for Clark Kent (Tom Welling). The season finale concludes with Kryptonian artificial intelligence Brainiac (James Marsters) transforming Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) into a superpowered host for Zod's consciousness. The season-six première opens with Zod (Rosenbaum) set to rule over Metropolis's devastated remains. However, Clark is able to evict Zod's disembodied consciousness (which resembles Terence Stamp) out of Lex's body and send it back to the Phantom Zone.
In season eight's "Bloodline", Faora (Zod's wife) escapes the Phantom Zone and inhabits the body of Lois Lane (Erica Durance) and reveals to Davis Bloome (Sam Witwer) that he is her and Zod's genetically engineered son (the Smallville version of Doomsday) after they discovered they could not have children sent to destroy Earth. Faora also remarks that Davis (Witwer) strongly resembles Zod. At the end of the season-eight finale "Doomsday", Zod's symbol is burnt into the grass by the Orb in the possession of Tess Mercer (Cassidy Freeman) with Zod (a brief, uncredited portrayal by Witwer) standing on the burning lawn.
Season nine introduces the character's return as a younger version known as Major Zod (played by British actor Callum Blue) as a main character. It is revealed that years before Krypton exploded, Zod duplicated his DNA when he was still a Kandorian Major but Jor-El (Julian Sands) treated the DNA samples with blue kryptonite specifically in order to prevent the resulting clones from manifesting abilities on Earth; consequently, Zod (Blue) is a powerless clone of the original who has no memory of becoming the villain Clark knows. Kelly Sounders observes, "over the course of the season, the venomous side of Zod rises because he experiences a few key betrayals with our beloved characters." Season nine begins with Tess as Zod's prisoner in the Luthor mansion; he and many other Kandorians live there. In "Metallo", Zod and his soldiers use LuthorCorp equipment to create the supervillain Metallo (Brian Austin Green) using Kryptonian scientific knowledge. Zod discovers that he is a clone in "Kandor". Due to an inadvertent trip into the future, Lois Lane becomes aware that the Kandorians will eventually regain their powers and use them to conquer Earth. Fearing this eventuality, Clark contacts the Kandorians to try and help them adjust to life on Earth without powers rather than remaining apart from them so that they can acquire powers without his moral guidance. In the episode "Disciple", Zod introduces himself to Lois as a friend of Clark's, and after Clark uses his blood to revive Zod in "Conspiracy", which has the side effect of awakening Zod's abilities, he begins to masquerade as Clark's superhero identity of "the Blur" in order to trick Lois into helping him investigate Tess, until Lois uncovers his duplicity. Clark is able to convince Zod's followers to leave him when they learn he killed a clone of Faora (Sharon Taylor) that was also pregnant with his child for objecting to his plans of conquest; using the Kryptonian artefact the Book of Rao, the Kandorians are transported to a haven dimension called New Krypton. Zod and Clark battle—both powerless due to the effects of Blue Kryptonite—until Clark is thrown from a building and Zod is unwillingly sent to New Krypton, where the Kandorians await him. Zod makes a final appearance in the season ten episode "Dominion". After the other Kandorians punished Zod by sending him to the Phantom Zone, he was reunited with the original Zod's disembodied spirit, resulting in the two combining into a physical form with the memories of the original and clone. The united Zod's hatred of Clark is further intensified, prompting him to arrange an elaborate trap to lure Clark into the Phantom Zone. Despite an attempt by Darkseid to use Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) to trap Clark in the Zone, Clark and Oliver manage to escape, destroying the exit and trapping Zod in the Phantom Zone for good.
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